When you think of the #MeToo movement, you probably think of 2017. Many white actresses came forward with allegations of sexual allegations and misconduct by powerful men within the movie industry. However, this movement started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, an African American woman who started this campaign to advocate for and help women of colour from underprivileged backgrounds, who have experienced rape or sexual assault.
If you have seen Surviving R.Kelly, you will have heard what #MeToo founder Burke had to say on the matter. Burke is also an activist for the #MuteRKelly movement and in the documentary, highlights that we as the public should believe the alleged victims who come forward in the documentary to discuss their abuse at the hands of R. Kelly. She also notes in the documentary that where #MuteRKelly succeeds in comparison to the#MeToo movement is that the newer hash tag movement addresses situations in which race is also a factor. Burke has stated: “We have seen 24 years of allegations leveled against R. Kelly, and he has gone unscathed” and now is especially important to talk about sexual abuse and exploitation of women of colour and in the specific cases of Kelly’s alleged crimes, black women.
Although #MuteRKelly came over 10 years after the initial launch of the #MeToo movement, the re-surge of the movement casts a re-examination of the historic allegations against Kelly. Likewise, the upsurge in attention paid to the #MeToo movement in 2017 allowed for alleged victims of Kelly to come forward, speak about their experiences and demand change to the music industry. As a result of the movements being hot topics in recent times, radio stations across the US gave less air-play to alleged abusers such as Michael Jackson and Kelly to ensure revenue stopped funnelled to them. Spotify and Apple Music obliged with the wishes of supporters of the #MuteRKelly movement by removing his music from their official playlists e.g. removing ‘I Believe I can Fly’ from All Out 90s, but failed to remove the artist from the platform altogether.
In a press release, a representative for Spotify stated “we don’t censor content because of an artist’s or creator’s behaviour, […] but we want our editorial decisions – what we choose to program – to reflect our values. When an artist or creator does something that is especially harmful or hateful, it may affect the ways we work with or support that artist or creator.” Since the rise of the #MuteRKelly movement took the world by storm, Spotify introduced a button that allows users to ensure that artists who listeners wish to not play will skip over or not suggest them.
This is particularly handy for those who wish to show support for the alleged victims as this act will ensure that he can not make any more profit and wealth, thus reducing his influence within the industry to an extent. Of course there are issues with this as many people choose to support Kelly despite the allegations and he has already profited off his music for years, therefore the effectiveness of this technique can be ridiculed. Likewise, if the allegations are proven, many women would have suffered already but muting Kelly allows for his power to dwindle within the walls of prison and the outside world. This is a positive step toward reducing Kelly’s influence and legacy, and honouring his alleged victims.